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Eunice arrived punctual as ever for today’s outing to nearby Torrey Pine State Reserve where she knew of some Dudleya growing in nature. It turned out that this location was not necessarily in the State Reserve, but virtually next door, near some University of California buildings. I’ll put the GPS coordinates in Google Earth later to get an exact position. As we left the car park, we almost immediately stepped on our first Dudleya.

I’d say we found a total of 3 species in total during our 2:30 hour stay and I’ll check the Dudleya book for pictures of plants that look like what we saw and are reported from where we saw it.  Eunice might be kind enough to confirm or correct these names (she did tell me some names while we were out in the field, but with my memory, they could have been John, Fred & Charlie) Essentially, the three forms / taxa were:

  • Long cylindrical leaves pointing upwards, probably D. edulis
  • Broad leaves, best farina (white powder) of the 3, the name D. pulverulenta might fit. These make the biggest rosettes of the three
  • Lanceolate leaves, so the name D. lanceolata is perhaps too obvious, but is reported (‘Ponto Form’) from Dan Diego County, which is where we were, but which is probably the size of Wiltshire – check page 143, plate 26:2, Eunice.

It’s quite refreshing to be searching for something that is utterly new to me. I can make the wildest suggestions (like D. lanceolata looks like an intermediate / hybrid between the other two) as I don’t need to pretend that I know better.

So, a whole day of looking at ‘large lettuces and other vegetables? Well, no, There were a lot of ‘Californian natives’ (Eunice’s pet word for local weeds) that were in flower and, due to the fact that they were new to me, were of interest – some would make great plants in UK gardens, if they could survive in our climate. And some may not be native at all, or at least not to California, such as Carpobrotus chilensis, Mesembryanthemum  crystallinum that seem to appear in any Mediterranean climate zone.

Throughout our walk, Eunice kept on referring to a special treat that she was saving up for me. Probably an Agave or Yucca, I thought as these surpass her passion for Dudleya. I had spotted a cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa) and Opuntia littoralis, but no Agavaceae. Then came the surprise, on a more badly eroded slope with rocks suggesting ferric or ferrous deposits: Ferocactus viridescens. Lots of plants in excellent health after recent rains, but no signs of buds. One fruit spotted and seed harvested. (Ian note). So next I’ll need to check if Ferocactus gets its name from growing on ferric or ferrous soils. Ian, does Uncle John P’s book suggest an origin for the name? I had previously thought it was derived from ‘ferocious’, i.e. heavily spined.

So the next challenge was to find the best, most photogenic plants, preferably growing together. I’ll upload the best to flickr later, if my eyes stay open long enough.

Next we went to visit the collection and nursery of Jürgen Menzel, formerly from Germany, but probably as long in the US as I have been in the UK. He still seemed to be in touch with many German growers, such as Ernst Speck and Köhres and knew most of the Austrians I mentioned. His collection is not unlike Alan Pocock’s, with lots of weird, rare and wonderful stuff. Novelties included were Mam. perez-de-la-rosa var. andersonii, with straight spines; two taxa from the Galapagos islands (if only I had a memory or could have taken pictures of the labels); a weird cactus with the body of Arrojadoa (Floribunda) bahiensis, but the flower bud of a Discocactus that, I’m told, also flowers white, opens at night and fills the tunnel with a strong perfume; a new subspecies of an Echinocereus (I forgot to note the name) and the results of crosses of straight Astrophytum asterias and A. caput-medusae. Jürgen was instrumental in assisting a Mexican in distributing A. caput-medusae seed around the world around 2004, from which we now benefit at ELK. All these hybrid plants looked like A. superkabuto’s but not the most extreme attractive ones. So the A. asterias genes seem to be the dominant ones – the ‘foreign’ pollen might even have induced self pollination, but the markings were different from those from a control batch of A. asterias seedlings.

We had some great cactus-chat while looking at the plants. Eunice could not help but buy plants and everyone was happy by the time we left to do battle with rush hour traffic.

We ended up at a Panera (‘chain of Bread bakery-cafes bring the tradition of freshly baked artisan bread to neighborhoods in cities throughout the country’) in Carlsbad, because they do healthy food, good coffee and free internet access. Sadly the chain does not extend into Baja. The internet connection played up and an email I had written was lost, but I did manage to down load my pictures.

Next we went to a huge sports shop where my Maestro debit card was rejected, so that Cliff now owes Eunice US$ 24.97 (down from $29.99) for a Queen size (75x58x9″) airbed  in addition to humble apologies for past comments made on a similar subject. We went for the model that takes up to 600 lbs, but it has a repair kit included just in case. Like most things on sale here, it was made in China.

That was about as much excitement as I could stand for one day.

Tomorrow I might make another drive along the coast and this time use the official entrance to the Torrey Pine State Reserve, after all, I never took a picture of the famous rare Pine of the same name that grows there, and somebody at a future presentation is bound to ask ….

Wednesday, Mark Fryer is coming up from San Diego to show me around C&J’s and Grigsby and who knows what else, so life is still good in Toy Town.

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